Part 36: Thorn Brenin and The Surprising Lack of GrimdarkThorn Brenin and The Surprising Lack of Grimdark
When we last left Thorn, he was headed to the White Tower to try to rescue his son Mact from the well known cannibal tribes of Europe.
Charlemagne, by Johannes Fried posted:
People's lives followed the course of the sun; things proceeded at a sedate pace. Handicraft was in demand, and apart from mills, manual labor was not yet facilitated by any machines-hard work without a doubt, but on a human scale. The world was a placid place, time was not precious, and no one except fugitives from the law was hounded.
The point I am trying to make is that "timely meetings" is a very modern concept alien to the supposedly medieval world of Ash of Gods. It invokes the modern corporate welfare setting where people get paid large amounts of money to work "leverage" into a sentence as many times as they can.
Then again, this is one of the many "medieval" worlds that doesn't have Christianity despite cribbing heavily off Christian religious themes. It makes sense for the story they're trying to tell about the absence of God, I will grant that.
Off we go. This is the fastest path to Friga (I'm not sure if we can skip Friga and go right to the tower)
Here we go, a blatant moron trap. That's more like it, Ash of Gods!
: Ask the others' opinions about these will-o'-the-wisps.
Anyone who's ever owned a D&D monster manual can tell you these are bad. I would cite mythology, but has this game ever used that?
: Flitt shrugs. "There's nothing mystical about these lights. They're just bog-vapors that... happen to glow. The path they form is an illusion, and following them is a fool's errand."
Back to the road...oh.
: Tell your companions about the captain.
: Krieger nods and points in the direction of the burial as he remembers it. He adds, "We might as well pay our respects to the great warrior. It's not far, if you know the way."
: Give up on the idea of desecrating the burial.
This may look stupid when you see my strix count for the legion of caricatures I have accompanying me, but I really need the morale.
That said, I'm not sure I'd mind people robbing my grave if it was a matter of life and death. Oh well!
I'm not sure what that arrow is but I have my suspicions.
AN INTELLECTUALLY CHALLENGED MERCHANT! WE'RE SAVED!
You all voted no robbing.
: Buy something.
No strixes? Well shit. Um. All of his stuff is terrible. The herb bag lets you heal more on rest, but you should never rest with Thorn for reasons we will see this very update. The Mirror Shard is...eh. Paralysis stuns things for a round, and Burning Souls does...something that fucks you over just as hard as the enemy.
: Leave the feeble-minded man alone and move on.
We don't get far before we get another random encounter.
: Lead your entire company to the rescue.
Leaving small children to die is too evil even for me.
Oh for the love of fuck.
Wow, even the kids are dicks in Ash of Gods.
Those fuckers! The thread voted to keep Ramlin alive!
Anyway, my strix count is about to fuck me over in three...two...one...
Well, Gleda is relatively uninjured and she also sucks, so -
Oh damn it. The thread voted to save Ramlin and kill Hode, but Hode's not here right now so we can't.
I go with this:
If you'll notice, a lot of our characters are 1 hit away from death now. It's another reason why Thorn's party is so painful - your characters are weak and there are so many of them that you go through strixes incredibly fast. We probably don't need both Skoor and Vai, but I hate killing off PCs in video games. Sue me.
: A sergeant hails you. "Hey, where are you headed? Haven't you heard we're abandoning Friga? Name's Sieglif and I make sure everything goes smoothly on this road. So let me have a look at your papers, just in case."
: You show him the papers drawn up by Rask. "What's happening over there? We're coming from Marsh Watch, so we're behind on fresh news."
: You ask, "And what about Prince Treeg of Jerana?"
It's the middle ages. News travels by horseback at best and you're not guaranteed to hear everything everywhere.
We literally took the speediest route from where Hopper heard the news at its source and somehow it beat us across the weird magic wasteland to this random sergeant in the ass end of nowhere.
Come to think of it, wouldn't the Magic Necromancy Land be a natural border for the Berkanan whateverthefuckitis?
Thanks to that pointless exposition dump I have to reallocate my lack of strixes. Woo.
We get a short cutscene at Friga, most of which I don't capture.
I still don't know why the game wants us to stop here instead of going right to the White Tower (there's a route to it that lets you bypass Friga) but maybe there's a store or something?
: Krieger swears. "Who wages war like this? No patrols! No guards! Gates open wide as a whore's legs! You could take this fortress with a dozen scouts!"
The people abandoning the fortress?
: You shake your head. "While Friga holds the road, the only way in is through the main gate. Still, there should be someone stationed here. Perhaps it's all hands on deck."
Inside the city is...not much better.
: Eyes wide, Gleda looks beyond the gate, to the bloodstained mountain path that leads toward the forest. "Dad, that horn signaled a retreat, right? Why's that squad not withdrawing? The enemy is pressing the attack!"
So maybe I should have had a vote on this, but I'm exercising my power as LP Tyrant to have us join the fight. I've never done it before and I desperately need strixes.
: Join the fray.
See every time I hit this fight I usually run out of strixes from trying to save all these assholes. This time is no different.
We're pretty battered!
I try the fight conventionally and it doesn't go very well. Have this shot of Thorn jumping like a doofus.
So after a lot of time wasted on failed attempts, I just say "fuck it" and pull out the Thorn Brenin circlejerk. I give you this knowledge so that if you ever decide to play this game you can just not give a fuck no matter what route you're on.
As you can see, Thorn, Skoor, and Ramlin are going to sit in the corner having a buff fest in a totally nonsexual way. Skoor is going to use his healing spell to raise Thorn's HP so he can wander off into that crowd of dudes and not die. Ramlin has a dope spell called "loan" that can raise people's attack by 3/turn when upgraded, and thus is an important part of any circlejerking strategy. He spams this on Thorn every turn.
Thorn sits there until he has buffs. In theory you could use his anger buff to raise his attack, but that drops his health and energy, both of which you kinda need. Just wait for the idiots to wander over to you.
Now we send out Thorn by himself. Unfortunately the bandits are not impressed by him being a legendary Baron Swordsman Liki-banger, so he's gonna have to jump up and down like a doofus. There are two ways to go from here:
-Have Thorn use Fightback, giving him counterattack equal to his idiotically high attack stat. Then slap Spirit Armor or something on him so idiots wander into him and get counterattacked. Yea, that's one of the optimal strats in this game.
-Have Thorn use his Jump Like An Idiot attack, which does a metric fuckton of AoE damage. Like, instant kill levels. He then gets damage reduction equal to a high percentage of his attack (I think 2/3?) which lets him shrug off piles of mooks.
That's it. You don't care about doing Thorn's fights anymore. Remember to use buff cards to stall for time for idiots to surround Thorn!
COME ON AND SLAM! AND WELCOME TO THE JAM!
And that's how fighting with Thorn is going to be from now on. Also, my god, we needed those strixes.
As you might imagine, looking for Hederlig just gets him killed outside the wall. Fuck you!
: I am Thorn Brenin of Albius in Odalah and a captain in retirement. I'm looking for Prince Hederlig.
One actually good characterization of Thorn is that he insists on being called a captain when he's also a noble with title.
Anyway, meet Hederlig. Hederlig is actually a pretty decent guy, and to my knowledge the only gay person in the cast who doesn't get completely fucked over for it.
: Why are you fighting among the common soldiers?
: My people are exhausted, Thorn. We'll have to abandon Friga, but the refugees need time to reach Heiborg. Our fighting buys them that. Nothing inspires soldiers like their prince fighting alongside them.
This dude has had one conversation, and he's literally twice the protagonist Thorn is. Can we keep him?
: You could have been slain!
: (With a smirk) Even princes are mortal. Had we faced a more clever foe, I'd not be standing here. I'm not one to cower and hide.
I feel kinda bad for not intervening in those last two playthroughs now.
Holy shit! Even Thorn's realizing what a baller Hederlig is! I don't think we've seen Thorn respect...anyone really. Even the guys who fight under him.
(I just checked out the window. No horsemen, 7 headed beasts, or lambs breaking seals. We're good!)
Seriously. Why isn't this guy a protagonist? He's noble (in the character sense), courageous, a good leader, people like him, and he's actually a beacon of hope in the shittastic world of Terminum.
: Why is the siege so poorly organized?
: I am no less surprised. I knew the Gells and Vandils were different to Frisians, but I did not expect to have to repel at random. It's as if someone is driving these bastards to die at the walls of a fortress they've no need of taking.
: You're right. It's not a proper siege, and Friga will not fall. Something else troubles you though. Is it the Frisians? Do they approach?
: (Nodding) Of course, the Frisians wouldn't miss their share of the fun, but we'll leave Friga before they arrive. What's troubling is this chaotic siege. It's vexing. It appears as though Frisia has hired the tribes to do it, but I know that's impossible.
: Do you know the whereabouts of my son, Mact Brenin?
: Who is this Drooket and where can I find him?
: He is one of my men. And dare I say-the best. He's looked after Mact since the lad arrived in Friga. You should speak to Lon first. He's commander of the guard here. You'll probably find him in that house over there. I shall ask him to assist you.
Lon and Hederlig are a thing, btw.
: Thank you. That's all I wanted to know.
: Wait. I hesitate to say this, but... I owe you my life. I shan't forget it. If this pestilence doesn't destroy us, find me. I'm sure it'll be easy.
: Yes, Your Highness.
: Take your leave. I hope you find your son. He's a good lad, and now I know who he takes after. Farewell, Captain Brenin.
TheGreatEvilKing summary posted:
: Excuse me, random soldier, have you seen Prince Hederlig?
: That would be me.
: What the fuck? Where's your king bling? Why were you fighting with the peasants? You could have been killed!
: Look, we need to buy time for the refugees to escape, and quite frankly my men will fight harder if they see me on the front line.
: Holy shit! That's awesome! You're awesome! I am glad you're not gay or else I wo-
: As it happens, I am gay.
: But I also have standards. It sure is a good thing these guys are incompetent and crazy. They're being driven by something. Maybe a Reaper? Hint. Hint.
: Probably not important. Have you seen my son? He doesn't have a character portrait yet and I'm worried about him.
: It's cool. Look for the man who looks like Sean Bean and he'll help you out.
: Sweet, thanks.
: I owe you my life.
And just when the game manages to do something right, it shits the bed by glitching the Hederlig fight option onto this menu as unselectable. Ash of Gods, ladies and gentlemen!
Poor Lon doesn't get a character portrait in extras, alas.
If you didn't click the link in the summary, click it now! The man is Sean Bean with all the likelihood of surviving this update that entails.
: What's happened to him?
: He was ambushed. The place was crawling with thugs. It's as if someone gathered them up from all across Terminum, purposefully drove them mad, then herded them to Friga. Mact's had a run of especially bad luck. Some... unusual bandits have taken him prisoner.
: (Harshly) Cannibals, right? No need to mince words. I've seen much in my lifetime. Is there any hope that Mact still lives?
: Do you know where he is?
You know what? You're a good man Drooket.
Seriously, if we made Hederlig, Lon, and Drooket a protagonist party over Thorn and the Failure Gang this game would be so much better.
: (Surprised) What can you tell me about the White Tower?
: Wait... It's a death-trap, even for cannibals. Though, considering all this madness... I've yet to search there. How did you learn of the White Tower?
: Why are you looking for him?
: The prince appointed me to look after Mact as soon as he arrived. I was like a mentor to him. You have an able son, Thorn. Quick learner, but what a hot-head. He acted rashly while in my charge. Please... forgive me.
: Nothing to forgive. I remember myself at his age. I, too, would sneak away, looking for adventure.
: Let's go and search for him.
: No time to lose-every hour counts.
: Will the prince not object?
: Hederlig's strict. He spares no more soldiers for the search, and all of Mact's men are already dead. But the prince won't stand in our way. He's not heartless, and he was fond of Mact too.
I suspect the prince would have everyone out searching for Mact if the fort wasn't under siege.
TheGreatEvilKing summary posted:
: I'm looking for my son.
: I haven't found him. If I knew where he was I would let you know.
: The voices said to check the White Tower!
: I hear voices too! Let's do it!
Or we could not go, and talk to Fisk instead. Is he stalking Gleda now?
The weird thing is, Thorn was! The last conversation we had had Thorn say things like:
This fucking game posted:
: You were a hero, Fisk
and talk about how he was personally awarded a decoration by the king!
Oh, I see. The intern must have wrote those last two moderately enjoyable conversations, and we are back to the regular Ash of Gods writers.
: Well... they're all kind of white in these parts. Oh, wait! There's a watchtower a few days' travel from here-but it was destroyed a long time ago. Some say it's cursed!
: Do you know how to get there?
TheGreatEvilKing summary posted:
: Ha ha Fisk, you suck!
: Fuck you! I was a hero!
: I remember saying this, but now I'm gonna flip flop! You suck, Fisk! You suck so bad you could star in vacuum commercials! Also wheresthewhitetower.
: It's that way.
I leave just like poor Friga intern did. I'll never forget what we shared, Friga intern. A few moments of me not hating this game.
Ok, let's go get our son and -
Fuck off! This wastes time (though we do get loyalty with Vai) and it turns out the monks have all been slaughtered as the regular Ash of Gods writers are desperate to piss away any good incurred by Friga intern.
: Stay on the road.
: You decide to continue your journey and avoid distractions. The road dives and hides beneath the debris of past landslides. You dismount and lead your horses on foot. When you're almost clear of the debris, you hear the twang of a bow-string. You duck-just in time.
Hey, guess what faction never fields archer units?
Translation: Gleda is force deployed on the next mission, fucker!
However, instead of fighting our way across the map to her which would be an interesting tactical challenge and a penalty for doing the Buff Man Dance, we get to place her, and eschew tactics to do...the Buff Man Dance.
Oh, look, they're all dead.
This is the background when we reach the White Tower. I guess those are Mact's men who have been eaten by the cannibals?
: Drooket points to the ruins. "The tower looks empty. I fear the bastards might panic and slaughter the prisoners. If you distract them, I'll sneak up from the side. I know this place, so I'll find a way."
Uhhhhhh. What the fuck?
: (Tense) My name is Thorn Brenin. You like to ask and answer your own questions, I see.
Is this guy like 12?
: (Looking around) If you're going to eat me anyway, what's the point?
Wow, this guy is a fat shirtless cannibal with a mental age of 12. How did he manage to ambush and kill a column of armored men, and how is he still alive if this is the only way he gets food?
: Well then, tell me your riddle.
So I don't trust the translators and I invoke the power of GameFAQs.
You know what bothers me about this guy? He's a fairy-tale troll in a game that is very much trying to be serious and mature. Now fairy tales have some pretty dark stuff, but the tone is completely off for this Serious Grimdark Adventure the game wants us to have.
Mabok here being a black guy instead of a troll is not helping the writers.
TheGreatEvilKing summary posted:
: Holy shit! You're like a racist caricature or something! Have you eaten my son, or worse, turned him into a racist?
: Wow! I'm hungry! Is that a sword mister? It's so shiny!
: Are you twelve?
: I WANNA PLAY A GAME! WANNA PLAY RIDDLES!
: Fool! I command the power of GameFAQs!
: No! My money is hidden under the B tile, for Boring! Like you, Mr Brenin! But I'm gonna eat you now!
So this chapter has been all about rescuing our son from cannibals. You'd expect a climactic fight, right? Mabok is supposed to be some kind of shaman, maybe he left dark blood magic for his followers to use? Maybe insane cannibal warriors who gained strength by feasting on the flesh of their enemies?
Joke's on you! This is Ash of Gods! Seriously, these enemies are bog-standard thugs. One of them is literally named "Farm Laborer", for god's sake! They don't even have ranged weapons!
It's a massive letdown. I don't think we've had anything that really qualifies as a boss fight outside of Lo Pheng chapters where he fought Atraakh. I mean, I know the Ash of Gods devs have an unholy terror of making unique enemies (probably because their code is a godawful spaghetti mess and I suspect abilities are tightly coupled to units). It's Chapter 6 of 10. We're still fighting these boring generic enemies but with bigger numbers. This is a climactic chapter-ending battle where we are literally fighting for our son's life.
Hell, it wouldn't even be hard. Give Mabok Hopper's flame blade at a lower power level and different casting animation. Draw some demon-possessed looking guys and give them the Thorn's anger ability (raises attack and defense at the cost of health and energy) but have the casting animation for it be gnawing their own arms off or something. Hell, reuse some of the battle card animations as spell attacks for Mabok. This is not hard once you have the engine set up.
Hell, if you want to be really cruel put Mact as a neutral unit and have him be tied to a stake. The cannibals can go eat him for health and you need to zerg across the battlefield to save him.
There you go. I've given you a more interesting boss fight than this battle against farm laborers. You're welcome.
Oh, wow, look at that, it has the same solution as every other fight in the game. Cheese it with protagonist AoEs.
They do have a nasty surprise in that they have a battle card that exchanges everyone's health and energy, but it really doesn't matter because you can just refresh the fight and be sure to buff Thorn's energy too.
I've had more climactic dumps.
: Gleda pushes past you. She stoops over Mact and smiles through her tears. "He's alive! Passed out, starving, bruised... but still alive! Praise the gods, it turned out all right!"
So, remember that timer I was talking about all game? If you show up on day 33 Mact loses a hand. After that? Mact gets eaten by the cannibals.
This is why I never rested and used gamefaqs to skip most "waste a day" events. I have literally never gotten any other ending than Mact being eaten here, and even that is pretty lame. You'd expect Thorn to run off swearing vengeance on Mabok, but he just breaks down with "hole in my heart" style dialog. It's not very interesting, and I'm glad I don't have to show it because this path, the one we are actually on, works! We have actual hope! We have set a goal and succeeded at something rather than just pointless, idiotic suffering!
Hell yea Drooket my dude, have a hug!
: The warrior laughs as you rise, wrapping you in a bear hug. Under different circumstances, you might protest, but the relief of saving Mact is too great. You free yourself from Drooket's mighty embrace and smile at him. "How can I possibly thank you.[sic] We've just met, and I'm already in your debt. Without you, we'd have stood no chance."
: "Damn them!" Drooket growls. "Too bad we didn't kill them all. Especially the leader. The bastard ran away! One day I'll find him, and he'll beg for a quick death!"
Grammar mistakes AND pointless death? The regular writers are back for certain.
You're in on the pointless cryptic mystic bullshit too? Drooket I thought you were cool!
: Ask about the woman.
Maybe she can fill the gaping hole in Thorn's heart.
By letting Thorn fill her hole.
See, she was trying to dig a foundation but there were snakes and -
See how much better this works when there's actual contrast between some hope and a world full of pointless suffering?
Mact is a cool dude because he only lets us pick one of these dialogue choices.
: What would you have done if you were me?
: I'd have saved my son, Father. Our differences are few; any quarrels between us mean nothing.
So Mact is our last playable character as far as I know. I've never actually recruited him, so I have no idea what he does!
Knowing this game he'll be a generic warrior or some shit.
Things are looking up, goons!
Remember, the fanart contest is still open until October 31st!